That one word in each Spanish-speaking country....

Marianopolita

Moderator Spanish Forum
Dec 26, 2003
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The Spanish newspaper El País interviewed twenty writers from the Spanish-speaking world and asked them to give one word that best represents the regional vocabulary of their country. This article was done 2014 which is not long ago and having read the list of words and excellent description of meaning and usage this type of information really makes the study of language informative, interesting and fun.

If you like comparing regional varieties in language this blog entry will be of interest to you. I recognize many of the words and from what was said in the description, it’s absolutely true in my experience speaking with Spanish speakers from all over the Spanish-speaking world.


Here are the words and link with the meaning and explanation of usage:

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Marianopolita

Moderator Spanish Forum
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For the Spanish speakers on the board here is an excellent article I just read in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo. The word vaina is used as well in Colombia and in quite the same meaning as DR but I would say with even more range and verb forms too. The article gives details of the various meanings and examples of usage in Colombia as well as some historical details about the word. Well worth the read.

 

JDJones

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Vaina and olla are tied for first for me.
 

Marianopolita

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Vaina and olla are tied for first for me.
I hear you but I also depends on who you are speaking to in my experience.I think there is definitely a ‘sociolect’ meaning a group or groups of speakers that you would more likely hear the usage among compare to others.
 
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Marianopolita

Moderator Spanish Forum
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I also recognize quite a few from other countries as well from my colleagues, friends and literature (another benefit of reading in Spanish) For ex, huachafo (Peru) , asere (Cuba), boludo (Argentina), bochinche (Venezuela), cipote (El Salvador), tuanis (Costa Rica) are all very recognizable in my world.
 

Marianopolita

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One other aspect is if I am among a group Spanish speakers wherever and I can’t recognize their accent what I do is listen out for these key words or even expressions that are unique to their country or region and that is what works for me or at least I can narrow it down.
 

Marianopolita

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Un chin is very Dominican, I haven't heard people from other countries using that term and whenever I use it they ask me if I live in DR.
Yes.....uniquely DR.

Where would use un chin outside of the DR? I am just curious.


If I know a word is extremely local I tend to use the standard word in Spanish if outside of the country in question or a more regional word (meaning used in several countries in the region). In my experience, it is a lot easier and no need for explanation.


Q. ¿Señor quieres café?

A. Sí, un chin.

.......then the person will be looking at you.

Unless you are in the DR, NYC, PR (most likely) or people who have been around Dominicans most Spanish speakers will not understand.
 

TropicalPaul

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Yes.....uniquely DR.

Where would use un chin outside of the DR? I am just curious.


If I know a word is extremely local I tend to use the standard word in Spanish if outside of the country in question or a more regional word (meaning used in several countries in the region). In my experience, it is a lot easier and no need for explanation.


Q. ¿Señor quieres café?

A. Sí, un chin.

.......then the person will be looking at you.

Unless you are in the DR, NYC, PR (most likely) or people who have been around Dominicans most Spanish speakers will not understand.
Well I learnt a lot of my Spanish in DR so using words like un chin is just how I speak Spanish. I was in Barcelona in a restaurant and said "quiero un chin nada mas" without thinking and they laughed at the word and immediately asked if I had been living in DR.

I think Nitido is another mainly Dominican expression (evidently from the American "that's really neat"). And "llamame pa' tra" which a lot of people say in DR but is totally incorrect Spanish even though most Spanish speakers get the gist of what it means.

Being British though I'm very aware of speaking English the way we speak it even if I'm in the US, and not using American pronunciation or American words, just because so many American words sound ridiculous when said in an English accent.
 

Marianopolita

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I would have guessed chévere for Venezuela.
The interview from El País was not extensive maybe just one writer from each Spanish-speaking country so it certainly does not represent the range of possibilities. I could easily add more. All it means is that the person who they interviewed for Venezuela said bochinche another Venezuelan may have given a different word.
 

Marianopolita

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Well I learnt a lot of my Spanish in DR so using words like un chin is just how I speak Spanish. I was in Barcelona in a restaurant and said "quiero un chin nada mas" without thinking and they laughed at the word and immediately asked if I had been living in DR.

I think Nitido is another mainly Dominican expression (evidently from the American "that's really neat"). And "llamame pa' tra" which a lot of people say in DR but is totally incorrect Spanish even though most Spanish speakers get the gist of what it means.

Being British though I'm very aware of speaking English the way we speak it even if I'm in the US, and not using American pronunciation or American words, just because so many American words sound ridiculous when said in an English accent.
The reaction you described in your first paragraph is what I would have expected totally regarding un chin.

Llámame pa’tra is just a bad literal translation from English to Spanish used among bilingual or partially bilingual speakers. It makes no sense to Spanish speakers who don‘t speak English. It would never even occur to them to say that because the literal translation makes no sense. It is used a lot in Miami for sure and probably NYC. The proper way devolver la llamada is not common at all in Miami.
 

Marianopolita

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Tinto- coffee - a give away that you are speaking to a Colombian.

Pachanga and guateque - party. Cuban all the way.
 

NY2STI

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I smiled when I read "pinche" from Mexico. We often greet each other at work with casual, friendly vulgarities (e.g. -"Hey cabron, how are you today"? ) A Guatemalan employee is fond of an expression that sounds like "pinche way". I never bothered looking it up until now, so I guess it doesn't mean "happy birthday". :)
 

Marianopolita

Moderator Spanish Forum
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I smiled when I read "pinche" from Mexico. We often greet each other at work with casual, friendly vulgarities (e.g. -"Hey cabron, how are you today"? ) A Guatemalan employee is fond of an expression that sounds like "pinche way". I never bothered looking it up until now, so I guess it doesn't mean "happy birthday". :)

When in doubt look it up.The Internet has a wealth of information about Spanish and language. It’s incredible compared to when the Internet did not exist. Before there was no hands on access to information like this.


So anything with pinche in Mexico is strong and not a nice word to throw around per se. Mexico and Central America (except Panama) are not my areas of expertise when it comes to sociolinguistic aspects of Spanish but I use my resources as my guide.

I just looked up what you referred to pinche, wey.....see the link below.

 

Marianopolita

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Bacano- cool, great, nice etc. Used in Colombia and other countries but very Colombian.

In my opinion, bacano is almost on the level of chévere which is an all-purpose word for Venezuelans. Even in response to ¿qué tal?.....chévere.
 
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Sailor51

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Bacano- cool, great, nice etc. Used in Colombia and other countries but very Colombian.

In my opinion, bacano is almost on the level of chévere which is an all-purpose word for Venezuelans. Even in response to ¿qué tal?.....chévere.
Interesting, but I would have thought abagato would have been it.
 

Marianopolita

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Interesting, but I would have thought abagato would have been it.
What do you mean? There can be more than one word that identifies a country per the explanation in my opening post and the interview conducted by El País
.

What does abagato mean?

I have never heard that word and I just looked it up in the dictionary and it says not found.
 

NY2STI

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When in doubt look it up.The Internet has a wealth of information about Spanish and language. It’s incredible compared to when the Internet did not exist. Before there was no hands on access to information like this.


So anything with pinche in Mexico is strong and not a nice word to throw around per se. Mexico and Central America (except Panama) are not my areas of expertise when it comes to sociolinguistic aspects of Spanish but I use my resources as my guide.

I just looked up what you referred to pinche, wey.....see the link below.

Thank you for the follow up. Pinche was easy enough to find, but the word I was having trouble finding was "wey". I was spelling it "jue". I'm always fascinated at how words can take on decidedly different meanings from one country to another, especially when the countries are not that far apart geographically. Thanks again for your lessoncitas!
 
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